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The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book about Noiseby Garret Keizer
Synopses & Reviews
Noise is usually defined as unwanted sound: loud music from a neighbor, the honk of a taxicab, the roar of a supersonic jet. But as Garret Keizer illustrates in this probing examination, noise is as much about what we want as about what we seek to avoid. It has been a byproduct of human striving since ancient times even as it has become a significant cause of disease in our own. At heart, noise provides a key for understanding some of our most pressing issues, from social inequality to climate change.
In a journey that leads us from the Tanzanian veldt to the streets of New York, Keizer deftly explores the political ramifications of noise, America's central role in a loud world, and the environmental sustainability of a quieter one. The result is a deeply satisfying book — one guaranteed to change how we hear the world, and how we measure our own personal volume within it.
"Examining noise as a social barometer of sorts, this book covers a wide spectrum, from revolution to religion. The author neatly handles a symphony of facts and ideas, offering frequent summations like 'The history of noise abatement is to a large degree about dividing space into noisy and quiet areas' and 'The combination of flatness and proximity to water complicates as well as exacerbates certain problems of noise' that demonstrate his passion for the subject. A sophisticated thread woven through the many genres and locales reveals not only subtle sonic connections but also the author's Achilles' heel. Addressing the importance of human cooperation over selfishness and isolation, Keizer offers that people 'need to love... their backyards with the same particularity as they love their own children - not to the total exclusion of other children, which would ultimately hurt their own children, but with the passion and partiality that are of the nature of love.' This is but one of a cacophony of platitudes that the book falls victim to so that by the end, an unquestionably important perspective is smothered under a lot of preaching." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"[T]his engaging book explores the unforeseen (and sometimes unwanted) side effects of our inventive natures....An enlightening look at an issue most of us ignore." Booklist
"Keizer casts a broad net, gathering data from numerous sources in time and space, but his take-home message is simple — for a better, more pleasant world, tone it down." Kirkus Reviews
"Garret Keizer has, not for the first time, helped us look hard at something we thought we understood and see that instead it's rich, fascinating, full of political and moral and human implications. I'd say that his argument goes off like an intellectual explosion, but perhaps better in this context to summon the image of a bell, struck once in the silence. This is a book for our precise moment on earth." Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
"Very few writers combine thoughtfulness and rage as satisfyingly as Garret Keizer. As promised, this is not just a book about noise; it is a profound meditation on power — its painful absence and its flagrant abuse. You won't be able to hear car alarms in quite the same way again." Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
"Every man, woman, and child who has recoiled from the obscenity of intrusive noise should read this book. Keizer, whose disputatious moral eloquence places him in the line of Sinclair and Steinbeck, shows us that noise is far from being but one more irritant of modern life. It is a symptom of deeper threats to a healthy society: amoral power, a degraded political system, a collapse of spiritual consciousness. This is a masterpiece of social reportage and — wondrously, given all its burning indictments — of decency and affirmation." Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life and co-author of Flags of Our Fathers
An acclaimed writer investigates the hidden political, social, and environmental costs of that ancient phenomenon we call noise
Shrewd . As the effortlessly intelligent Mr. Keizer points out, noise is among the thorniest class issues of our time, and we tend to utterly ignore its meanings.”—New York Times
Noise is usually defined as unwanted sound: loud music from a neighbor, the honk of a taxicab, the roar of a supersonic jet. But as Garret Keizer illustrates in this probing examination, noise is as much about what we want as about what we seek to avoid. In a journey that leads us from the primeval Tanzanian veldt to wind farms in Maine, Keizer invites us to listen to noise in history, in popular culture, and not least of all in our own backyards. He follows noise throughout history and across the globe. He considers what it has to tell us about todays most pressing issues, from social inequality to climate change. The result is guaranteed to change how we hear the world, and how we measure our own personal volume within it.
About the Author
Garret Keizer is a free lance writer, a contributing editor to Harper's Magazine, and a recent Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author of six books, including the critically acclaimed Help and The Enigma of Anger. His essays and poems have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, The Best American Essays, and The Best American Poetry. He lives with his wife in northeastern Vermont.
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